Leaving Congress, but still collecting checks from taxpayers

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — More than a dozen members of Congress were defeated on Tuesday night. But taxpayers will still have to keep sending most of them paychecks.

Members of Congress are eligible for a pension after just five years in office, so that means senators qualify for one after a single six-year term. But most can’t start drawing full payments until age 62.

North Carolina’s Kay Hagan, for instance, lost her first bid for reelection on Tuesday. For senators and representatives with only six years in office, like Hagan, the annual pension is about 10% of her annual $174,000 salary, or about $1,450 a month.

Colorado’s first term senator, Mark Udall, also lost Tuesday. But he’ll be paid about $47,000 a year since he also served five terms in the House.

Senior members with 32 years in office can earn 80% of their pay, or about $139,000 a year, after leaving office.

This year there are nine members of Congress who are leaving with 80% pay.

Many of them are already in their 80’s, so they probably won’t draw a pension for many years. But California Democrat George Miller, who is retiring after 40 years in the House, is only 69.

And the pensions that lawmakers get are defined benefit plans, which means they are guaranteed to be paid a certain sum for as long as they’re alive. Another perk: These benefits increase with the cost of living. Both are features that have become rare in private sector retirement plans.

While most former members of Congress have to wait until age 62 to start drawing their pension, those with 20 years of service can start receiving payments at age 50.

Georgia’s Jack Kingston, age 59, is leaving the House after 11 terms following his defeat in the Senate primary. With 22 years in Congress he’ll be eligible for a pension of $62,640 starting next year.

By Chris Isidore